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Meadow Lake Progress, Sunday August 24, 2008

Orchard wins Liberal nomination

By Jennifer Blake

On August 14, in a vote to nominate the Liberal candidate for Saskatchewan's northernmost federal riding, David Orchard won decisively. He surpassed former candidate Joan Beatty, who was appointed by Liberal Leader Stephane Dion in March.

Orchard said while the process to end up where he is today was a long one, it has been positive for himself and for northern Saskatchewan.

"John Dorion and I were out selling memberships when the process began a year ago," he said following his win.

"It was all set aside when Joan Beatty's appointment was made. There were a lot of people upset. Then Joan lost the election and the party agreed to be fair and go ahead with the democratic process."

The next thing Orchard did was fight for multiple polling stations.

"In the end we got 10 polling stations," he said.

"We wanted one in Ile a la Crosse though, because people from La Loche had to travel to Canoe or Meadow Lake to vote."

Even without a station in Ile a la Crosse, Orchard said the voter turnout was better than expected.

"People responded with vigor," he said.

"Some people who were not even registered to vote came. I don't think there has been this kind of response before."

Since his victory, Orchard said he has been just as astounded by the overwhelming response.

"I have taken hundreds of messages congratulating me, it is hard to keep up. I've heard from the party leader, former leaders and ordinary people. I heard from a farmer in BC who said he has been depressed by the government but now he is becoming optimistic."

He added that the people of northern Saskatchewan deserve a fair democratic process, and they clearly appreciate that.

"People in the north want to participate and they have been taken for granted," he said.

"I want to try to break open from that. There are lives at stake."

Now that he is the Liberal candidate, Orchard said he is focusing on the future, and he has a lot to work on.

"Northern Saskatchewan is one of the richest areas of the country, yet there is a high unemployment rate," he said.

"There is poverty, poor roads and to me that is unacceptable. There is a disconnect between the riches and what people are getting."

In addition, Orchard said he wants to focus on environmental issues.

"I heard of the two-mouth fish in the Athabasca system, and that worries me. I don't want to see that kind of thing for northern Saskatchewan. There needs to be sustainable development that does not destroy our heritage."

He also said he would like there to someday be a national park in the north of the province; a place that could preserve and protect the beauty of the area.

According to a press release from August 19, Orchard is an organic farmer and one of the pioneers of organic farming in Saskatchewan. He farms in both Borden and in Choiceland. He is the author of the best-selling book, The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism and prior to joining the Liberal Party in 2005, he ran twice for the leadership of the former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. In 2006, Orchard supported the candidacy of Stephane Dion, and brought to him 150 delegates.

Orchard has roots in the Desnethé riding where he farms the land once owned by his maternal grandfather. He has had decades of contact with the First Nation and Metis people of the area and across Saskatchewan.

Orchard said he wants to thank all those who participated in the nomination process, both by taking a membership and then taking part in the vote itself.

He added that he looks forward to touring the riding to say thank you and to begin the campaign for the next federal election.

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